Rome in summer is a hot and sticky place. From about mid-June temperatures in Rome start to soar and the heat becomes increasingly relentless until it reaches a peak, usually in the middle of July.
Things don’t get much better after that. August in Rome is also a very hot month and the weather becomes so unpleasantly hot and humid that Italians have long ago elected this month as the perfect time for their summer holidays,
As a result, Rome in summer is a strange and not always pleasant place: the air is hot and humid, the sun aggressive, the mosquitoes ubiquitous and the locals scarce.
However, this is not to say you cannot have a good time in Rome in the hot season. All it means is that you have to be prepared and avoid mistakes that can make your time in the city miserable.
After spending 40+ summers in the city, I know Rome summers very well: these are my best tips to survive the heat in the city and my recommendations on the best things to do in Rome in summer.
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Rome in summer, what to expect
Summer in Rome arrives in June and lasts until the end of September. Summer in Italy goes from the 21st of June to the 21st of September and this is pretty accurate also for the actual feeling you get in the city.
In general, June in Rome is hot but pleasant (this last year being an exception, with temperatures about 30C/86F – 35C/95F, very unusual in this month)
July and August are usually unpleasantly hot, with temperatures above 30C/86F and a feeling of even higher temperature, due to the city humidity
September is still a summer month in Rome, but usually the afa (Rome’s oppressive heat) leaves a little it more space to breath, the temperatures getting more and more bearable as you get to the end of the month
If visiting Rome at any time during these month, you need to be ready for real summer temperatures and be equipped with light clothes, sunscreen and a sun hat.
Rome in August
Visiting Rome in August deserves a paragraph on its own because August is the month when Italians go on holidays and therefore leave the city in large numbers
You may have read online that this means in August everything closes but this is not correct. August in Italy is traditionally the month of summer holidays and this means many office workers and public sector employees will be away.
This has an immediate impact on any public service (you will get nothing done in August if you need a public body to be involved) and also on small shops and establishments, that may close down for the summer season or reduce their working hours.
In terms of tourist services, however, August has hardly any impact. Despite the unpleasant heat August is still tourism season in Rome and pretty much all attractions in the city, hotels and restaurants operate with full hours.
The only exception can be the 15th of August. This day is national holiday and therefore many establishments and bus services operate a reduced service.
if you are visiting Rome in August, make sure your plans for the day take this into account.
Rome in summer: best things to do + tips for the heath
Don’t underestimate the temperature
The first tip about visiting Rome is summer is not to underestimate the weather, ever.
This is because the thermometer can be deceiving. If you lvie in a very hot climate, you may think Romes’ 32 degrees are a non issue for you but don’t let numbers fool you.
Rome is surprisingly humid and this mean 32C degrees often feel much hotter than you expect. After having experience Rome in summer and Palm Springs CA in July, I can tell you Rome is about 10 degrees cooler but equally if not more unpleasant!
Don’t expect strong air conditioning
Rome does use air conditioning in many shops, restaurants and hotels but if you are used to American standard air conditioning, you may be surprised.
First of all, you do not have air conditioning everywhere: if you are in a hotel or Air bnb, make sure it is clearly stated on the description that they do have air conditioning because if it is not written anywhere, chances are there is none.
Even when there is air conditioning, in Rome the standard power of it is lower. Entering an air conditioned space in Rome usually gives you a little relief but little more.
When in the US for instance, I am positively cold in a supermarket in summer while in Rome, I am just a little less hot. This is a maybe very empirical way of explaining the difference between the two, but maybe the most effective too!
Bring very light, breathable clothes
The best clothes to wear in Rome in summer are light, breathable clothes that all you to stay as fresh as possible.
If you are worried about the dress code in the city and the restriction about visiting churches, don’t be: just read our packing list for Rome in summer and style tips so you know what to expect and can be ready
But keep your top on
Recently news appeared in online magazines and news outlet reporting new rules enforced in Rome and one of them was that you should not take your top off in the city.
This may have come as a surprise for many but actually, in Rome is has never been legal to go topless and yes, this includes men and also mean you cannot wear your bikini top in the city.
Maybe because I grew up in Rome, I found bizarre this needed to be spelled out but I guess if it is different in other countries, then it is right to inform everyone about it.
Strappy tops and shorts are on the other end ok.
Avoid sightseeing in the hottest hours of the day
Most of Rome attractions are outdoors (I am thinking Colosseum, forum, piazzas) and without trees to offer shade, so if you are in Rome in summer, you need to make sure you avoid sightseeing anytime between about 10.30 and 4.30.
This may sound like a really long time, but getting out in the sun at that time is highly likely to result in sunstroke so seriously, consider alternative plans
Go sightseeing early in the morning
This is a tip I give visitors any time of the year but it really comes into its own in summer. early in the morning, crowds are lower and the city loses that tourist trap feel you often catch in the middle of high tourism season and shows its true nature as living and breathing city.
You don’t need to get out stupidly early to enjoy Rome without the crowds. Even if you leave your hotels at about 8.30, you will have a couple good hours to see the best of it.
You can head to Piazza Navona or Trevi and get photos before the crowds arrive or you can even opt for an exclusive guided tour of the Vatican early in the morning, so you get not just a head start but also get one of the most incredible museums in the world almost all for yourself.
Or go sightseeing at night
If summer days in Rome are a nightmare, summer nights in Rome a delight. You can see a lot of Rome’s most famous piazzas and square in the later hours of the day and you can ever make the most of evening tours of some of Rome’s main attractions.
The Colosseum for instance has a wonderful night tour and so does Castel Sant’Angelo. You can read my tips to get the best tickets for the Colosseum and skip the line here
Embrace drinking from Rome’s small founains
Rome has many small fountains called ‘nasoni’ and in summer they are a godsend. They produce delicious drinkable water and they are free for all to use.
You can use them to refill your water bottle or you can drink directly from them: in that case, don’t put your mouth on their nose.
Instead, put your hand under the main flow of water and drink from the spring coming out from their top!
But don’t go into the fountains yourself
When the heat is relentless the temptation to enter Rome fountains can be really strong but, resist!
If you get in, you not only run the risk of ruining these works of art and annoy fellow tourists on the hunt for a good photo but you also break the law: bathing in Rome fountains is illegal.
The rules are more lax with children: getting soaked in Rome’s nasoni is perfectly acceptance;e and almost a children must do. Entering the Trevi fountains on the other hand, isn’t!)
Replace espresso with granita
In hot weather a hot espresso is not ideal but Rome does have a hot weather alternative: granita di caffe’ (coffee granita)!
Granita is shaved iced with coffee on top and usually cream and is a delightful and refreshing way to drink coffee in Rome in summer.
Try Grattachecca the quintessential summer in rome treat
if the idea of shaved ice tempts you but you do not like coffee, then you want to try the quintessential summer treat in Rome: grattachecca!
This is the Rome interpretation of a granita and is usually sold in kiosks as street food (a little like gelato). They come in many flavors and are delicious, definitely a must try in Rome.
Eat tons of gelato
Eating gelato is an activity for all ages in Italy. Load up on your favorite flavors and eat as much as you need to stay cool! You can find my favorite addresses for the real gelato deal here.
Take a break in churches
Rome is said to have over 900 churches and they are all blissfully shady and cool in summer.
If you need a break, simply enter the nearest one and take a seat: just make sure you are appropriately dressed (no shorts or mini skirts) and you have something to cover your shoulders if wearing a strappy top.
Go to the park
Rome has gorgeous parks and they make for wonderful places to take a break from the heat.
In the city center, the best and biggest is Villa Borghese while close to st peter you want to head to Villa Dora Pamphili.
Go to the pool
I know you are in Rome to sight-see and not to go to the pool but sometimes, the heat is so bad you just need to stay near water.
In this case, you can look up public swimming pools or seek out hotels offering daily admissions to their pool.
Good ones I know are the the ES Radisson near Termini, Grand Hotel Gianicolo, Aldrovandi Villa Borghese, Cavalieri Hilton. You can find our selection of our favorite outdoor pools in Rome for all budgets here.
If your budget allows it, you can also opt for a hotel with a pool. Hotels with outdoor pools are a handful in Rome and they tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum however, some have good offers. You can find our selection of hotels in Rome with swimming pools here.
Escape Rome in summer with a day trip to the lakes or the sea
When the urban heat is excessive, the best way to deal with it is to just get out of town.
Rome is in a perfect position to reach many pleasant areas near water such as lakes and sea. I love Martignano (lake) and Sperlonga (sea) most of all but Ostia is also perfect for lunch on the water.
Embrace Rome bustling summer nightlife
Rome in summer comes to life in the evening. In this season, you have great festival wit live music, books and food stalls and many concert fill Rome’s parks.
Castel Sant’Angelo, the area along the Tiber and many local parks have events: make sure you check what’s on in Rome on google doe the days you are there for a full list of options
See the opera in Caracalla
One of the most beautiful things you can do in Rome in summer is going to see a live opera in Caracalla.
Caracalla’s baths are an incredible archaeological site and in the summer they become the backdrop for big opera shows. Check the program and make sure you get ticket as this is sightseeing with a twist!
Or listen to jazz in Villa Celimontana
If you prefer jazz to the opera, you will be delighted to hear that Rome in summer is a good place for jazz lovers. A very pleasant place to be in summer is Villa Celimontana, a beautiful outdoor space that hosts a summer Rome jazz festival.
I hope you enjoyed this list of tips and ideas to enjoy Rome in summer. Safe travels!